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15 tips for getting your photo Popular on 500px.com

Photography / 9 Comments / August 25, 2014

I’ve been a member of 500px.com for about 18 months and have seen many – but by no means all – of my photos ranked as Popular. One of them, Sunlit uploads, made it into the top 15 a couple of weeks ago. In that time, I have looked at the work of many other members and have gained a good idea of what gets to the top of its Popular and why.

Before I share my tips to help you rank higher, here’s a quick summary of how the site works. Every photo uploaded starts with a so-called Pulse score of zero and every Like, Favourite, share on social media and comment – naturally, the algorithm behind it is never disclosed – boosts your score up to a theoretical maximum of 100. Gain a Pulse of 70 or more and your photo is ranked as Upcoming; surpass 80 and your photo is Popular.

The higher your score, the closer you get to the front page and the more people will see your photo and Like it. Your photo is ‘fresh’ for 24-hours, after which a 10-point penalty is applied that enables newer photos to climb to the top, Thus the competition is continuous and there are no prizes, save the satisfaction of peer recognition.

What works

So, here then are the top five types of photo that go all the way to the top of 500px.com. If you’re able to produce images like these, success is virtually guaranteed.

1. The luminous landscape

With a soft glow that verges on fantasy, views like this often feature snow-capped mountains in the background and flowers in the foreground.

Copper Top

Copper Top by Alex Noriega

2. The fine art architectural mono

Taken using strong neutral density gradient filters and often processed using Photoshop plug-ins like Nik Silver Efex Pro from Google, light and shade emphasise the stark lines of modern architecture for dramatic effect.

la défense

La défense by Ronny Behnert

3. The beautiful woman

Because most members of the site are male and portraits are a popular genre…

Blue night

Blue night by David Olkarny

4. The bird in flight

Who can fail to be impressed by pin-sharp and beautifully processed photos of birds caught on the wing? It must take a huge amount of patience and skill to capture images like this.

5. The long-exposure beach sunset

It’s nearly dark, the clouds are mere texture and the sea has assumed a silky, almost vapour-like quality.

The Dreamscatcher

The Dreamscatcher by Romain Mattei

In a class of its own: the leading pro’s photo

Post enough great photos and gain exposure through YouTube, publishing and teaching workshops and you’ll gain recognition that virtually guarantees high placement on 500px.com whenever you upload a photo, which will of course be of the highest quality anyway. I’m thinking of the likes of Marc AdamusMatt KloskowskiRC Concepción and, one of my strongest influences, Serge Ramelli.

Notre Dame Long exposure

Notre Dame Long exposure by Serge Ramelli

And what doesn’t

Here are five types of photo less likely to get to the top. I can illustrate some of them from my own work; for the rest, take a look through 500px.com yourself.

1. The church interior

I have posted a few photos of cathedrals and churches but they never seemed to gain traction. Perhaps this is down to the increasingly secular world in which we live?

Sepulchral calm

Sepulchral calm

2. The daylight photo

It’s a maxim of landscape photography that you should always shoot near dawn or dusk, so perhaps there’s an element of snobbery going on here?

Perfect reflections

Perfect reflections

3. The holiday snap

And here, too. ‘Anybody with an iPhone could shoot this’.

Paddle thru

Paddle thru

4. Your pet snaps

You might love Tiddles or Bonzo but, unless you can make an outstanding job of retouching the animal in your life, Facebook is probably the better place for his or her likeness. It’s that photographic snobbery thing again.

5. The grungy HDR shot

Aided by software from Photomatix and other vendors, this photographic fashion duly surged two or three years ago but, scarred by the halos it created around sharp edges, it has well and truly crashed. The smart tool to use nowadays to blend images is luminosity masks, as championed by Jimmy Macintyre.

Five bonus tips

Beyond the examples above, here are five more tips I can offer in terms of maximising your chances of a place on the Popular page.

1. Take good photos

Here are nine tips towards better landscape photos that I published earlier this year. There is plenty of other great advice out in print and on the Web, too.

2. Engage with other photographers

If you want your photo to be liked enough to become Popular, you need to like other people’s photos, too. Looking at other people’s work is, moreover, the best way to learn how to improve yours.

3. Upload your photos at least 24 hours apart

If you Like, Favourite and comment on other photos in the hope that the favour will be returned while you have a fresh photo recently uploaded – and let’s be honest, most of us members do it – you don’t want to dilute the amount of reciprocal appreciation each photo of yours is likely to get.

4. Avoid watermarks

Adding text to your photos isn’t really going to stop other people stealing your photos if they are really determined and watermarks do detract from your images (I stopped after the first couple I uploaded to 500px.com). I’m happy to Like photos with watermarks, but I’m less likely to Favourite them. What copyright infringers can’t take is your knowledge and reputation – and that’s what you build by publishing your work on sites like this.

5. Don’t give up at the first attempt!

The first few photos I uploaded didn’t rank highly; as a newcomer with no connections, I could hardly expect otherwise. Then, last Autumn, a photo of mine ranked as popular for the first time and I felt like I had reached The Next Level as a photographer. Many of the ones I uploaded thereater also reached Popular – it quickly became a disappointment if they didn’t. This is a general lesson in life.

Over to you. Do you publish photos on 500px.com? Are there other tips you’d like to share? Let’s start a conversation in the Comments below.

Copyright acknowledgement

To those photographers whose images I have showcased in this post: I think they’re great and have included attribution and a link back to your 500px.com page. But if you don’t want me to feature your work here, do let me know below and I’ll gladly remove your image.

9 Comments
  • Alexander / March 2, 2015 / Reply

    What I mentioned lately, when you like someone photo, and people comeback to you to like yours, they 95% will like the old ones, or less popular one. I see that for last few months and the only answer for that I can figure it out – is to stop your latest work move up, to slow down competition.
    Also if we take a look on fresh photos with 0 pulse, and will scroll next after next fast, you can see how few likes added to each one instantly, doesn’t matter of what it is. This how people hunting for the likes.
    And prime time is most important to upload photo.

  • Dominic / March 3, 2015 / Reply

    Hi Alexander,

    You make some interesting points; this sounds like the opposite of liking somebody’s photo in the hope that they’ll like yours back. It looks like the management at 500px.com are on the case, as they make clear in their blog post You Speak, We Listen: How We’re Constantly Making 500px Better, and How You Can Help. Let’s hope this improves the experience for everybody.

  • chris thornton / November 4, 2015 / Reply

    I stopped using 500px long time ago, as a professional photographer my main concern was that they: TAKE the TOTAL ownership of uploaded content. Might not be the case for pro account but for the free ones it is in their Terms and Conditions. Recently I was “spammed” to check out a site called YouPic. I must say I really enjoyed the Experience, much more 2015 than 500px. Also as you might have guessed I totally checked out the terms and conditions on YouPic and they do not steal rights to the photos. 500px does unfortunately. I think they will lose many users to the new kid in town. The concentration on YouPic seems to be about inspiration and getting better photos. And the amazing 10 000 views in less than 2 days on my photography was a wow experience.

    • Dominic / November 6, 2015 / Reply

      Hi Chris,

      That’s interesting; I haven’t heard of YouPic before but it looks a very promising site; thanks for the tip. It’s unfortunate that 500px makes a rights grab on images uploaded on free accounts but I suppose that’s the trade-off if you don’t want to pay to use their site.

  • Mox / March 15, 2016 / Reply

    you mention not using watermarks… do you mean specifically manually added watermarks via Photoshop or whatever, or do you mean the 500px add-watermark feature one sees when uploading a photo and adding attributes to it? or both?? thanks…

    • Dominic / March 15, 2016 / Reply

      When I wrote this post nearly a couple of years ago, I meant big, ugly watermarks right across the centre of your image – and I stand by that. I’ve recently started adding a discreet watermark of my own to images I share online, for branding rather than protection from image thieves. Of course, 500px have started adding watermarks of their own. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice with no right answer. Whatever you do, try not to distract from the image itself.

  • Robert Carter / July 9, 2016 / Reply

    I got carried away and read your entire article . . . nicely done. But I came across it by Googling “How do I ‘like’ a photo on 500px”. I am new to 500px and cannot find where to ‘like’ a photo (I assume the heart is for ‘faving’ an image). Can you tell me how to ‘like’ a photo because there are many I like but few I wish to ‘favorite’.

    • Dominic Brenton / August 6, 2016 / Reply

      Hi Robert,

      A few months ago, 500px changed their definitions of Likes and Favourites, probably in response to attempts to game their ‘pulse’ algorithm. When you click on a heart, you’re liking the photo. To Favourite the photo, click/tap on it to view its page (where you can see all the info about it) and add it to a Gallery.

      I hope this clarifies.

      Dominic

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